jamaican rice and peas

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Rice and Peas with Jerk Pork, Boiled Green Banana, Roasted Carrots, and Pickled Ripe Banana

Long ago, I remember my mother grating fresh coconut to make the coconut milk that goes into rice and peas. She poured boiling water on the coconut in cheesecloth, and strained the milk, twisting and squeezing the grated coconut to give up the milk. Then she would gather all the ingredients in a big pot on the stove and cook it slowly, shifting the pot so the rice would cook evenly, and poking it with  chopsticks to let the steam out. It was a daunting complex recipe. Fortunately, the rice cooker was invented and coconut milk now comes in cans and UHT boxes. Thanks to my sisters for this recipe because making rice and peas is easier than ever! And if  company isn’t coming over to eat this much rice and peas, the leftovers freeze beautifully.

Jamaican Rice and Peas

1 cup kidney beans, soaked overnight in 3 cups water
1 carton coconut cream (250g)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
5 cups rice (rice cooker cups) Recommend Thai jasmine rice
3 stalks scallion, chopped in 2 inch lengths
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
water
salt to taste
1/2 lb salt pork, cubed or bacon, chopped

1. Rinse soaked beans and discard soaking water. Pressure cook beans with 6 cups water and a little salt until tender, about 25-30 minutes. Save the cooking water for the rice.
2. If using salt pork, rinse salt off, and pressure cook it separately with 4 cups water, 25 minutes. Drain and discard water
3. Wash rice and place in non-stick rice cooker pot.
4. Add beans and beans cooking liquid. Add coconut cream, garlic (optional), scallion, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. After adding the cooking liquid and coconut cream, add additional water to come up to the 7 mark on the pot. Stir.
5. Add salt pork, if using
6. Press the cook button. When the button pops up, taste and adjust seasonings.
7. Serve with fricassee chicken, stew peas, or jerk pork/chicken

Variation
If salt pork is unavailable, brown ½ pound of coarsely chopped bacon and add it to the rice just before cooking.

jamaican stew peas

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This is my mother’s recipe (via my youngest sister) for stew peas or stewed red kidney beans with beef and salt pork. It is a popular dish in Jamaica and is often eaten with dumplings, rice and peas, and “food”–boiled green banana, Irish potato, carrots, sweet potato, and sometimes boiled dumplings. Slow cooking all day is the best way to make stew peas,  but I came up with a short cut and cooked it in a pressure cooker for 40 minutes. If using the pressure cooker method, increase the liquid to four cups. I also could not find salt pork in Bangkok so I bought pork belly, chopped it up and seasoned it just as I would season the beef, braised it briefly in oil, then continued with the recipe.

Jamaican Stew Peas

  • 2 lbs. stewing beef
  • 1 piece salt pork (rinsed)I can’t always find salt pork anymore, so I’ve been using a pound of bacon
  • 4 carrots (2″ lengths)
  • 2 cans red kidney beans (19 oz. cans), but I prefer the equivalent amount in dry kidney beans and I just soak them in water the night before
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • garlic
  • dry mustard
  • 2 beef bouillon
  • thyme
  • 2 cloves pimento (or ¼ tsp of allspice)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Pick-a-peppa sauce
  • 1 inch of coconut cream block or 1 cup coconut cream
  • Approximately 3 cups beef broth
  1. Wipe excess moisture from beef; trim if necessary.
  2. Season beef with salt, black pepper, garlic, and mustard.
  3. Cut salt pork into 4 pieces, boil and drain; or dice the bacon
  4. Mix beef, pork, carrots (if you can add the carrots a couple of hours later, they’re less likely to be mushy) and drained kidney beans in crock pot.
  5. Mix beef bouillon powder in 2 cups of water, thyme, allspice, Worcestershire sauce, and Pick-a-peppa sauce; melt coconut cream in mixture.
  6. Pour sauce over mixture in crock pot, add enough beef broth to almost cover contents, and turn on low heat for 10 to 14 hours.
  7. One and a half hours before serving, turn up the crock pot to high to get it to simmer.
  8. One hour before serving, add dumplings.

Dumplings

2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp shortening
½ cup hot water

Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Melt shortening in hot water. Gradually add warm water so that dough holds together but is not sticky. Add more flour if necessary.

To make dumplings, pinch off 1 1/2 inch of dough and roll it between your palms into a skinny string of dough about 3 inches long. If using the pressure cooker, let the pressure out manually and remove the lid. Reheat the stew peas to boiling and drop all the dumplings in the pot. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook the dumplings until they float which might take 10-20 minutes depending on how many there are. You can halve the recipe if you prefer to have less dumplings.

broccoli-tomato and shrimp fritters

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Shrimp fritters are a Jamaican appetizer and snack. At home, we eat them with hot Scotch Bonnet peppers cooked in the batter. I’ve added broccoli and tomato to the recipe; the broccoli adds crunch and colour, and the tomato adds colour and moisture. Without the shrimp, this is a vegetarian treat. Just increase the broccoli to 6 cups.

Broccoli Tomato and Shrimp Fritters

Yield: 11-12 three-inch fritters

12 ounces fresh broccoli (3 cups chopped)
500 g frozen and thawed shrimp, chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup (120 g) all-purpose flour
1 medium tomato, chopped and seeded
2/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (or mix 1/3 Parmesan and 1/3 Romano cheeses), optional
2-4 cloves garlic, minced (use more or less if you prefer)
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, optional, OR
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, finely chopped, with seeds for added heat or without seeds for less (optional)
1/4 cup cream or nonfat milk, more or less as needed to add cohesion to the batter
Vegetable oil for frying

To prepare the broccoli, cut the florets from the stems. With a vegetable peeler, peel off the tough outer coating of the stems. Chop stems roughly into 1/2 inch pieces. Separate the florets into 1 inch pieces.

Fill a large pot with about 3 inches of water and bring to a boil. Add about a teaspoon of salt to the water. Add the broccoli. Cook 5-6 minutes or until tender. The broccoli will be a bright green color. Drain the broccoli in a colander and rinse under cold water to set the color and stop the cooking process. Pulse the broccoli in a food processor 2-4 times. Broccoli should still be chunky and not too small.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the flour, tomato, cheese(s), garlic, salt, black pepper, and pepper flakes or Scotch Bonnet pepper, if using. Add the broccoli. Use a large wooden spoon to mix all the ingredients together. Add the cream or milk if the batter doesn’t clump together when dropped from the spoon.

Cook’s Note: The tomato not only adds a pop of color but it also adds moisture to the fritter—a little trick I learned from my cousin Cathy!

Pour enough oil in 10-inch non-stick skillet to cover the bottom. Heat oil on medium heat until the pan sizzles when a drop of water is sprinkled in it. Using a 1/4 cup dry measure, scoop up the broccoli batter and carefully drop it in the hot skillet. Flatten slightly with a fork. Continue scooping, flattening, and frying fritters, about 3 at a time. Leave about 2 inches between each fritter. Fry on one side 3-5 minutes or until golden brown, then flip, and fry 1-2 minutes on the second side. Add more oil as needed.

Cook’s Note: Dip the 1/4 cup measure in water to ensure the batter releases as you scoop the batter into the skillet.

Transfer fritters to a paper towel lined serving plate. If the fritters won’t be eaten right away, they can be kept in a low oven. Serve these fritters with tzatziki sauce, lemon-garlic yogurt, or Sriracha-pickle mayonnaise. To make lemon-garlic yogurt, to one cup of Greek style yogurt, add fresh lemon juice and lemon zest to taste. For a garlic flavor, add minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. For Sriracha-pickle mayonnaise, put a 1/3 cup mayonnaise in a small bowl with about 2 teaspoons chopped pickle (more or less to taste). Add the Sriracha sauce to taste. If you haven’t got Sriracha sauce, use any red hot sauce like Tabasco.

festival: Jamaican cornmeal dumpling

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Festival is a fried cornmeal dumpling from Jamaica that is eaten with savory dishes like ackee and saltfish or escovitch fish. We like to eat fried dough with highly spiced food because it takes some of the edge off the heat. The first time I tried to make them they were like little rocks–rock festival without the music! It is hard to find a tested recipe for this dumpling so I developed my own. It only makes 12 dumplings but there are only 10 in this picture because I ate two. This batch came out soft and tender. So good! Festival is best eaten the day it is made, but it can be warmed up the day after in a low oven and still taste great with leftover ackee and salt fish. Or escovitch fish.

Festival or Jamaican Cornmeal Dumpling
Makes 12 dumplings

1 1/4-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
3/4-1/2 cup cornmeal*
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of nutmeg, optional
1 tablespoon butter, chilled
1/2 cup cold milk or ice water, plus more if needed
Oil for frying

*Use more flour and less cornmeal for a more tender product.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, sugar, and nutmeg (if using). Cut in the butter. You should get a texture like coarse sand. Add milk gradually, and if extra is needed, add a tablespoon at a time, kneading until the dough is soft and elastic, and the sides of the bowl are clean.

On a lightly floured board, roll the dough into a cylinder and cut it into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a cigar shape with tapered ends.

Pour 1 inch of oil into a skillet and heat it until small bubbles cover the bottom of the pan. Fry the dumplings in the hot oil until golden brown all over, turning them frequently, about 4 minutes. If using a 10 inch skillet do 6 dumplings at a time. Drain fried dumplings on paper towels. Serve with escovitch fish or ackee and saltfish.

 

How to cure codfish at home

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Home-Cured Salted Codfish

Salted codfish or bacalao is essential to Jamaican dishes like Ackee and Saltfish and Saltfish Fritters. It goes without saying that bacalao for home cooking is difficult to come by in Bangkok. So I found the directions for curing codfish on The Spruce Eats. I couldn’t find sea salt in large quantities for curing. I did find it eventually, but only after I had bought 5 kg of iodized table salt (43 baht at Makro). I found frozen codfish fillets, also at Makro, for 160 baht. So for 200 baht (about US$6.00) I can make my own bacalao as compared to buying it for US$12.00 per pound. I also read online that curing fish with iodized table salt might brown the fish and give it a bitter taste. But I decided to try it anyway with just 2 fillets. To my surprise, they came out just fine. Here’s how I did it:

2 frozen codfish fillets, thawed
Sea salt (I used iodized table salt but a medium grain sea salt or kosher salt is recommended)

Special equipment
9×13 inch glass dish (can use stainless steel. Do not use plastic)
Cheesecloth
Wire rack
Rimmed baking tray

Rinse and thoroughly pat dry the thawed fillets. Spread a 1/2 inch layer of salt in the bottom of the dish. Place the fish fillets in a single layer on top of the salt, making sure they are not touching. Cover completely with another layer of salt.

Cook’s Note: The Spruce Eats allows that a second layer of fish can be added on top of the first layer. Make sure the second layer is completely covered in salt.

Cover the dish loosely with a clean kitchen towel to absorb odors, and place the whole thing in the refrigerator for 48 hours. The fillets will give off a fishy smell but will not smell spoiled. After 48 hours, the fillets were dry, even flatter from the loss of moisture, had lost about 25% of their length and about 10-15% of their width. Discard the salt.

Rinse the fillets and pat dry with a clean dish towel. Wrap each fillet individually in cheesecloth and set them in a single layer on the wire rack set on top of the baking tray or dish. Return to the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks to dry and stiffen up.

After 1 week, the fillets became dry and stiff. There was no moisture or smell because the salt had drawn away all the water from the fillets. The cheesecloth remained dry the whole week. The fillets turned white and stiff.

Wrap each fillet in waxed paper and then in foil. Label and date. Store in the refrigerator 3 months or up to 1 year in the freezer.

Before cooking you need to remove the excess salt. Soak the fillets in water for 24 hours, changing the water at least twice. My mother always boiled a piece of salted codfish for 3-5 minutes to remove the salt.

To test the result, I then cooked one of the fillets with tomatoes, onion, and ackee. The saltfish was too thin, I think, and lacked the “meatiness” necessary for the dish. It wasn’t bitter at all. The next time I cure fish, I will use a thicker fillet, and experiment with a different whitefish such as pollock, haddock, or flounder.

 

jamaican curry chicken

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This is a light and flavorful curry, not at all heavy. It’s one of the dishes I grew up eating in Jamaica–just smelling the spices takes me home again.

Jamaican Curry Chicken 

3 medium potatoes, cubed
2 medium carrots, cut into chunks
1 1/2 medium onions, peeled, halved then quartered
2 tablespoons Jamaican curry powder (I recommend Betapac)
salt and pepper
4 chicken legs
4 chicken thighs boneless with skin on
2 chicken breasts boneless with skin on
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups water

In a large bowl, season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper to taste and 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder. Set aside.

In a large Dutch pot, put the potatoes and cover with water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer potatoes for 10-15 minutes or until just softened. Drain potatoes and set aside.

In the now empty Dutch pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Brown the chicken pieces in the oil, skin side down. Add the vegetables and 2 1/2 cups water. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for 15 minutes.

Remove the lid and taste. Add up to a cupful of water if you want more gravy. Add the rest of the curry powder if you want a deeper orange color to the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. The potatoes will have thickened the sauce, but if you want it thicker, add a little cornstarch to some of the gravy and mix it together. Add the cornstarch mixture to the pot and stir to combine. Serve chicken curry hot over rice.

jamaican black bean soup

 

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Soups in Jamaica are hearty. Black bean soup can be as thin or as thick as you desire. Serve it thick like a stew as a main meal with ham or sausage, or serve it thin as a soup course. The scotch bonnet pepper (or habañero can be a substitute) adds flavor as much as it adds heat, which is very mild actually, so don’t be afraid to use it. When they are available in Bangkok I buy them, and freeze the extra for future use.

Jamaican Black Bean Soup (adapted from ethnic spicy food and more)

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small red onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 small scotch bonnet pepper, slit twice to release the flavors
1 1/2 cups vegetarian broth (substitute: chicken broth)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed (1 1/2 cups dried)
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2-3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (shake well before opening)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced fine

Cook vegetables. In a large stockpot, bring the temperature to medium heat. Swirl in the oil. Add the chopped red onion, red bell pepper, garlic, ginger and scotch bonnet pepper. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until the vegetables are somewhat tender. Add the broth, thyme and beans. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Sprinkle in the salt and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Purée cooked vegetables. Pour half of the soup into a blender or food processor. Pulse the soup to create a chunky mixture. Pour the puréed mixture back in with the remaining soup. Add the coconut milk and stir in the cilantro. Serve hot.

Variations

  • For a main meal, grill two sweet or hot Italian or Kielbasa sausages or turkey ham. Chop coarsely. Add to soup with the purée.
  • Use dried black beans instead of canned. Put 2 cups of beans, 6 cups of water, 3 tablespoons oil in pressure cooker. Cook 25 minutes. If beans were soaked overnight in the refrigerator, cook them 3-6 minutes.

rice and peas and fricassee chicken

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Black Bean Soup with Rice and Peas and Fricassee Chicken

Every cook in Jamaica has his/her own version of rice and peas. There are recipes that you cook on the stove top and those you cook in a rice cooker. But every rice and peas recipe that I know of uses salt beef or pork to make the broth, except this one. I thought I would try it to see how it tastes. Andy said he missed the smoky flavor of the salt beef, but otherwise, it was full of flavor.

Rice and peas is almost always accompanied with chicken. The fricassee chicken recipe that follows is my mother’s. It’s very simple and relies on seasoning salt to flavor the meat. Then you add tomatoes, garlic and onions, salt and pepper, and that’s it.

Rice and Peas (adapted from The Essential NYTimes Cookbook)
Servings: 8

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1-4 cloves garlic, minced
1-4 scallions, sliced thin
2 cups jasmine rice
one 14-oz can unsweetened coconut milk, well shaken
1 1/2 cups water
1 sprig thyme
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper or Habañero pepper
two 15 oz cans small red beans or pinto beans, drained and rinsed (1 ½ cups dried)
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

If using dried beans, soak overnight in enough water to cover. Drain, then cook in fresh water to cover in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in a Dutch pot with a tight fitting lid over medium heat.

Add garlic and scallion and cook, stirring, just until softened, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat if necessary to prevent browning.

Add the rice, coconut milk, water, thyme, Scotch bonnet, beans, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat then stir well, reduce the heat to very low. Cover tightly and cook without disturbing for 25 to 30 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is very tender.

Taste. Add black pepper and salt to taste. Fluff rice before serving. Serve with a fricassee of chicken.

Fricassee Chicken
4 chicken legs
3 chicken thighs, preferably boneless and trimmed of excess fat
Seasoning salt
3 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups onions, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil

In a large Dutch pot, heat 2 teaspoons oil on medium-high. Sprinkle seasoning salt generously on the skin and undersides of the chicken. Brown the chicken pieces then set aside.

To the oil remaining in the pot, add the tomatoes, garlic, and onions. Cook until the onions are just beginning to soften. Return the chicken to the pot and bring to a boil on medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes or until the chicken pieces are done. Taste and adjust seasoning.

jamaican sunday breakfast: bully beef and johnny cakes

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This is the breakfast we ate on Sundays in Jamaica, especially at the beach house, when the morning was fresh and cool. We’d eat bully beef–corned beef cooked with tomatoes, onions, and to wake up the mouth, scotch bonnet pepper. Bully beef is actually colloquial Jamaican patois for tinned corned beef. A popular accompaniment to bully beef was johnny cakes, a kind of fried biscuit–in the American sense of the word biscuit; a savory but light round of wheat dough fried and best eaten when it is warm. Every cook in Jamaica has his/her own recipe for johnny cakes; my mother used to make hers with lard. Johnny cakes are also an accompaniment for another Jamaican favorite, ackee and saltfish. They can also be enjoyed with butter and jam.

Bully Beef
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients
1 tin corned beef
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
1/4 to 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper, chopped, with or without seeds (optional)

Preparation
Heat a teaspoon vegetable oil in a large skillet. Fry the tomatoes and onions until the onions are translucent. Add the corned beef to the tomato mixture, breaking up the large pieces, until softened. Mix in the scotch bonnet pepper, if using. Serve at once.

Johnny Cakes (adapted from a Grace recipe)
Makes 18-24 cakes

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour plus more for flouring the board and rolling pin
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon vegetable shortening
9-10 tablespoons ice water
oil for frying

Preparation
In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and vegetable shortening. With the paddle attachment, mix on low speed (1) until the butter and shortening are incorporated the size of small peas. With the machine on, add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time until the flour mixture comes together in a ball and the sides are clean. Switch to the dough hook and mix on low to medium speed (2) until the dough is smooth and elastic. Switch off the machine and remove the dough ball.

On a lightly floured surface and using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut dough into rounds.

Fill a 10 inch skillet with enough oil to cover the bottom and come 1/2 inch up the sides. Heat the oil.

Cook’s Note: My sister-in-law Lorraine showed me this trick how to tell the oil is hot enough. The oil will be hot enough to fry when a wooden chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon, when inserted in the middle of the oil, gathers bubbles around the stick.

Fry the dough rounds in batches until they are puffed and lightly golden. Remove with tongs to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and cool. Serve warm.

jamaican pepperpot soup with dumplins

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It’s winter in Bangkok, which means the temperature dips from a sweltering 30 degrees Celsius to a relatively mild 23 degrees. So naturally, my thoughts turn to a spicy soup from Jamaica to brace both body and soul. In texture a pepperpot is thicker than a soup but not as thick as a stew. It’s in between. We eat it with dumplins and a side of rice, but that’s up to you.

Jamaican Pepperpot Soup with Dumplins (adapted from Cooking the Caribbean Way)

Servings: 6-8
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 60-75 minutes

2 lb stewing beef or pork shoulder, cubed
8 oz. salt beef, pork or bacon, chopped (I used bacon)
1 1/2 cups okra, chopped
1 bunch kale, chopped
1 bunch callaloo or spinach, chopped
2 scallions, chopped (I used 3/4 of a large onion, sliced)
1 lb yellow yams, sliced (I used 1 1/2 carrots, sliced)
1 coco or large potato, sliced
1 sprig thyme (2 teaspoons dried)
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, optional (I substituted 2 Thai chilies)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven, brown the salt meat in a little oil or brown the bacon until some oil is released. Add the meat and brown. Add enough water to cover, and bring to a near boil; simmer 30 minutes. Add yams or carrots and coco or potato. Simmer 15 minutes, then add okras, kale, spinach or callaloo, scallions or onions and simmer 15 minutes. Add 2 cups water to the pot. Add thyme, garlic, chili peppers, and salt and pepper to taste. Dumplins can be added to the soup. Stir and simmer another 15 minutes.

Mom’s Dumplins

2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

Put flour in a large bowl. Dissolve the shortening in hot water. Pour the shortening mixture into the flour and combine. Pinch off about an inch of dough and roll between your hands to make a cigar shape. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Heat a small pot of water to boiling and add the dumplins in batches. When they float, they are done. Drain dumplins and add to the pepperpot soup. Continue until all dumplins are cooked and added to the pepperpot.